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Two new San Diego equine shows really are horseplay

Horse enthusiasts unite this week as not one, but two shows with horses gallop into San Diego County.

Cavalia, with Normand Latourelle as the founder and artistic director, trots into the parking lot adjacent to Petco Park on Tuesday. And Valitar, produced by Mark and Tatyana Remley, will show its hooves at the Del Mar Fairgrounds starting on Friday.

Latourelle brought his first horse on stage as an extra, but quickly saw how it stole the show. Now years later, 50 horses will steal the spotlight at Cavalia.

“When I brought that horse to that show, he was stealing focus from the performers,” Latourelle said. “It was a historical show. The show was not doing a lot; he was just crossing the stage. And finally, everyone was attracted to the horse.”

There were no performing horses in Canada at the time, and so Latourelle became the proud owner of six performing horses.

“Very soon in the process I learned I could do something very artistic with horses. I realized it could be more artistic than a ballet dancer, if you do it properly,” Latourelle said. “The horse has everything. He has power, he’s big, he’s noble and we have a lot of horses with long hair. They’re just fabulous.”

The world premier of Valitar will feature 25 performers and 40 horses under a big top tent. The show was created in San Diego and incorporates technology, high energy, mythical music and a story on the relationship of horse and man, according to its website.

Mark Remley, a San Diego native, grew up around horses, and his wife’s passion for horses was “so consuming” that last year the two decided to start the horse show, Remley said.

“Since then, it’s been a crazy, wild, fun adventure we’ve undertaken here,” Remley said.

Valitar will travel to five major cities over the next year and stay in each for four to eight weeks with one month of downtime between each city. The Valitar Kingdom spans across tents covering 225,000 square feet with a 45,000 square-foot show tent, seating up to 2,200.

“Our kingdown is an epic adventure somewhere between myth and magic,” Remley said. “We focus on the voice of the horse. In some performances, there’s an unspoken language between the horses, and you see some of our performers interact with the horses. The relationship between man and horse can be astounding.”

Fifty horses are featured in Cavalia’s show, representing 11 different breeds. All of the horses are male, and half are stallions, said Latourelle. The show will follow the history of the relationship between man and horses, said Latourelle. The closest match to Cavalia is Cirque du Soleil, of which Latourelle was a pioneer in the mid 1980s, he said.

Cavalia’s White Big Top, designed by Latourelle and his team, raised in San Diego on Oct. 24. The White Big Top seats more than 2,000 people and everyone faces the stage. Images are projected onto a 230-foot wide screen, almost twice the size of an Imax screen, Latourelle said.

The show has been touring for almost 10 years and has returned to most of the cities it has visited — except San Diego. It first appeared in San Diego in 2004 and will make the city it’s last stop in North America this year before heading to Australia.

Local employees of Cavalia spend about $300,000 in each city visited. Lodging and food cost comes to about $975,000; equipment rental, power, electrician, heating and hardware supplies total $875,000; site rental, preparation, permits and local transportation costs $250,000; and advertising and promotion totals about $750,000.

“We’re going to spend a lot of money here in San Diego. We generate some economy; we generate some jobs, and we also generate tourism” Latourelle said. “Cavalia is the best show with horses in the world. Anyone who is involved with horses, who likes horses, will drive hours to come see Cavalia.”

The Cavalia tour employs 120 permanent people and hires 100 people in each city visited. There are 36 artists, acrobats, dancers and riders from Canada, France, Belgium, the United States, Morocco, Spain, Australia, Moldavia, Poland and Russia. There are also five musicians and a singer.

Valitar created about 1,000 jobs across many industries, including: performing arts, engineering, electrical, design, manufacturing, construction, trainers, horse trainers and more, Remley said.

“This is a ‘Made in America’ company. It’s a local San Diego start up with the world premier here,” said Remley. “The staffing here primarily are local with performers from all over the world.”

The Valitar employees and support staff stay in local apartments, condos and hotels, contributing to the local housing market, Remley said. Remley expects to use upwards of 75 semi trucks to move his show.

One hundred trucks are required to move Cavalia’s material and transportation is done over land, sea or air, based on the distance. When they travel by truck, each horse has a box and there are five boxes in one truck. The horses are not attached and can move and lay down if they want to rest, Latourelle said. When available, the group charters a Boeing 747 and the horses travel by air. The horses travel five times per year, and typically fly two of those times.

The horses rest at pasture for 10 days between cities. Latourelle owns 175 horses, there are 50 featured in the Cavalia tour and more than 50 in his second tour, Odysseo. The horses spend six months at the farm in Canada while not on tour. Latourelle purchases horses who are about four or five years old and begins training them. Some horses train for six months and are only expected to run across the stage, while others train for up to six years for dressage or other technical performances.

Valitar runs through Nov. 30 and adult tickets are priced between $65 and $205 for the weekdays and $75 to $225 for the weekends.

Cavalia runs through Nov. 25 and adult tickets are priced between $49.50 and $209.50 for the weekdays and $59.50 to $229.50 for the weekends.

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